Thursday, 24 April 2014

Crying shame

The Safari is very rapidly going off work, it really does infringe far, far too much on our safari-ing time.
Patch 2 was a bit of a dead loss, only a few Red Throated Divers and not a lot else out there and nothing going over in the clear bright conditions.
A very quick cjeck of the gardens was a megatory. Then mid-morning we heard the worst news; three Whinchats at the nature reserve followed later by a drake Garganey, all the ones we've seen in recent years have been females, juveiles or elclipse drakes...dohhhh what a day to be stuck inside!
Lunchtime was even worse on Patch 2, very little time to look and we saw precious little and more gripping news came in about a Harbour Porpoise, Whimbrels and an Arctic Tern out there; horribly gripping stuff and then this evening it was even worse when we heard there were two more Whinchats at the wetland near the nature reserve...dohhh
Back at Base Camp we had a whole to wit before Wifey got home so we pottered around in the garden, not seeing much other than a huge Tree Bee and Lucilla fly sitting on the bin lid in the sunshine - off to get the camera we went but by the time we'd come back and fitted te super-macro lens it was long gone. A fairly long wait ensued, it didn't return but was replaced by a similar but more dowdy black fly which we got a few shots of before we flushed it. We're annoyed that the camera settings were wrong, it's not as though we didn't have the time to get them set correctly...dohhhh schoolboy error.
That's all we've got for you from a day that promised so much more...dohhhh
Where to next? No chance of much more than a couple of minutes on Patch 2 tomorrow morning and then no chance of getting out until home time when its our monthly visit to the snake pit - what chance an actual real life snake???
In the meantime let us know who stepped up to the plate when all others vanished in your outback.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

And now for something completely different

The Safari  reckons it's not everyday you see a roller-skating Giant Panda being accompanied by a burly bloke dressed as a nun on a mobile piano!
Maybe it is round your way....
And in other news.
A nice summer plumaged Red Throated Diver was found on Patch 2 first thing while we were watching that we saw an auk drift into the field of view, While watching that and IDing it as a Guillemot a Harbour Porpoise surfaced four times behind it...not a bad few minutes. We found another three Red Throated Divers all of wom were still in their winter garb as were the other two Guillemots we picked up. Two Greeat Crested Grebes were out there too.
A few Sandwich Terns plunged offshore, one successfully.
A trip to the shop for tea n milk gave us DB's Goldfinches (P2 #52) in the far corner of the garden and the return journey from the shop saw a Willow Warbler/Chiffchaff (P2 #53) dive in to the bushes in front of us as we walked up towards the car park - Both are very scarce at work but this one didn't call or sing so we're not sure which of the two it was.
By lunchtime the tide had gone out but the beach was disturbed by fishermen, bait diggers and dog walkers so there wasn't much about. A look down the beach to the south had us watching a Whimbrel (140, P2 #54) come in to land before being flushed by a light aircraft a flying on its way. As we watched the Whimbrel climb higher in the sky a pair of dog-fighting gulls caught our eye. Shame it was so hazy as one was a Lesser Black Backed Gull and the other an Arctic Skua! Needless to say the skua won the battle.
The two Great Crested Grebes had now increased to a flock of three but there was nothing else on the sea although with the low tide and heavy drizzle visiibility wasn't the best it's ever been.
Been some good stuff about today which has had us a bit miffed at being stuck at a Wood Warbler very close to the nature reserve, many many years since we've had one there, only 91 Wheatears in a couple of fields a short drive away, still only seen three all spring, and there must have been a Whinchat somewhere, they were being reported all along the coast to the south of us...Chat Alley???
Where to next? very tempted to do an evening wood warbler twitch.
In the meantime let us know who's providing the musical accompaniment in your outback.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Ladybird ladybird whence forth comest thou

The Safari is fairly certain we've got the words to a popular nursery rhyme and/or a bit of Willie Waggledagger quite wrong there.
After a bit of overnight rain we were quite hopeful of something being about so off to Patch 2 we went. A quick scan saw us looking at an more or less empty sea. A couple of Sandwich Terns and a Grey Seal were out in the murky sea, rain was still in the air.
A further couple of scans found us a Guillemot and not a lot else.
The main event was happening literally right under our nose, there were hundreds of Ladybirds on the seawall right by us. Looking further along the wall we saw there were thousands of them! nothing for it but to nip back over the road and swap the scope for the camera!
Without our specs we could see there were smaller ones amongst the 7-Spot Ladybirds, no not baby ones! Inspection of the pics we took showed them to be 11-Spot Ladybirds only about 4-5mm long.
Showery rain persisted throughout the morning meaning the works garden wasn't overly dogged and there was a chance of a migrant being dropped - none did! However just before lunch DB came by with one of her dogs and told us there was Goldfinch over in the far corner where the nice publicly spirited person outs the food out, we didn't see it but it was the first of the year here and when we were leaving to go home we saw a Greenfinch (P2 #51).
In the office we've been running a sort of experiment about a) how acidic is cola and b) what would be the effects of ocean acidification on marine life...there are some scary stories that increasing CO2 in the oceans will raise the pH meaning the small calcium shelled sea creatures will fail to survive and bring the ocean ecosystem to crashing halt. Hopefully the phyto-plankton which gives us about half of our all important oxygen won't be immediately affect - would you rather suffocate or starve?
So here we go - a selection of shells and a crab carapace where collected at random off the beach washed and dried and then covered with cola three weeks ago.
They are clockwise from top left, Green Shore Crab (Chitin not calcium carbonate), Common Cockle (hard thick tough shell, Striped Venus (another toughish one), Thin Tellin (delicate), Banded Wedge Shell (thin and  delicate), Rayed Trough Shell (thicker but still more delicate then the top two).
The experiment had to end today cos when we got into the office this morning after the holiday there was a distinct wiff of something none too pleasant - turned out to be festering cola rather than festering shellfish.
So the results were on the left a two bits of limestone and a piece of quartz, the limestone bits were in a different tub but had been there for the same length of time. They now had a chalky film on the outside which wrote on the black card, the quartz appeared to be unaffected.
A brief discussion with BD suggested the chitin of the crab would be unaffected by the acid (coulda done with some litmus paper to check the actual pH) but it had gone soft and papery. Very little change to the two hard shells, the Common Cockle and the Striped Venus, not even discoloured. 
The three more delicate shells did have some changes. The Banded Wedge Shell disintegrated with light pressure from a pencil, the Thin Tellin withstood more pressure but the corner gave way. The Rayed Trough Shell was perhaps the most interesting the pointed end of the shell had gone but the rest wasn't overly affected a part from some discolouration. 
So what does all that show, well three weeks in a cola bath doesn't do some shells much good but doesn't seem to harm others...what that sort of pH would do to the living animal inside the shell is a different matter entirely.
For reasons of fairness we should repeat the procedure using one of the two propriety colas rather than a supermarket own brand.
What is certain is ocean acidification is going to become a serious problem that isn't going away for at least a couple of millennia - you have been warned!
Where to next? Patch 2 might throw up a few more year birds, a Whimbrel was seen by AB not long after we'd gone back inside.
In the meantime let us know who descended en masse in your outback.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Catch that pigeon NOW

The Safari didn't get any wildlifing done today, difficult from inside a pub serving quality beer!
Yesterday evening a stranger visited Base Camp. A racing pigeon, the telephone number on its ring told us it had come from Burnley, maybe it had been to the footy match which 'Pool lost on Friday. No doubt the owner will blame a Sparrowhawk or Peregrine for its demise all call for a cull or worse take matters into their own illegal hands,
This morning we emptied the moth trap, best catch of the season so far.
Clockwise from top left; Early Grey, female Bee moth, Hebrew Character, Common Quaker, Hebrew Character.

And this one, a worn Clouded Drab?

Where to next? Back to Patch 2 tomorrow and with all the changes of migration going on what might we find?
In the meantime let us know who's the mystery in your outback 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

A similar day but better pics

The Safari was delving into the moth trap with excitement this morning as we'd been able to use the big light last night, we got a slightly better catch than of recent was five Hebrew Characters showing their variety in shades and sizes and a rather pale Common Quaker but maybe the usual black CFL would have pulled these in too.

the nature reserve not quiet as early as yesterday but the morning was less windy and much warmer, consequently the birdsong was much more in evidence. As soon as we left the Land Rover and went through the gate we spotted this lovely male Reed Bunting pulling seeds out of the fluffbombs that are the heads of the Greater Reedmace against the low sun the scene was very dramatic - a stunning way to start the day.
Wandering on we enjoyed the songs of Lesser Whitethroat at the allotments and normal Whitethroats in the Brambles and Hawthorns a little further on. Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Blackbirds added to the morning music.
The track leading to thee old cabins had a few small birds 'feeding' on grit at the side of the path, we put the bins on them to reveal they were a pair of Chaffinches and a pair of Linnets. There seem to be a few more Linnets around this year which is good to see. We tried to sneak up on them but they flushed so we were pleased to have fired off a few shots a minute or so earlier.
Inside the reserve we soon heard the reel of the Grasshopper Warbler but could we see it!!! The 'inland' Cetti's Warbler was vocal again but once again unseen. Notable by their absence were Willow Warblers.
In the 'Paddock' there was a real unusual sight, a pair of Grey Lag Geese, never seen them in there before...bizarre.
While we tried to get a bead on the Cetti's a male Linnet landed at the top of a nearby tree and began to sing.
Slightly over-processed - sorry, it was a fraction out of effective range.
Down where the Bee Orchids are we spotted a Puffball lurking in the grass.
Another 'inland' Cetti's, the one we so unsuccessfully photographed yesterday was blasting out at full volume but like the earlier one we couldn't get to grips with it today until it flew across the path in front of us and straight into deep cover.
Our second 'usual' Grasshopper Warbler wasn't performing today, has it moved on?
A 'new' Sedge Warbler sang enthusiastically but there was nothing from the Reed Warblers this morning. Whilst looking to see if we could get a look at said Sedgy we saw a large green leaf taller than the growing reeds, Water Dock - wow not common up this way. A look in THE book later showed no local records! We think it might have appeared in response to the recent-ish reedbed dredging works disturbing the seedbank.
Behind us the gulls went up from the fields in a raucous clamour, something had spooked them. Found it, nothing exciting just yet another helium balloon sailing on the wind on its way to becoming litter somewhere.
Another Cetti's Warbler gave much better views but all too easily evaded the lens. By the time we got all the way round we'd had a definite seven and maybe eight singing males!
A second round of the reserve mid-afternoon after the rain didn't give us the hoped for dropped migrant, in fact it was much quieter than the morning traipse.
Another great day on safari draws to a close.
Where to next? Mothy is on again. Up north tomorrow but maybe more boozin than wildlifin but there's  always something to see if you keep your eyes peeled.
In the meantime let us know who was in the most unlikely place in your outback.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

A good day for bad pics

The Safari has been to the nature reserve twice today 06.15 the 17.00.
Neither visit gave us anything out of the ordinary although the Barn Owl early morning was nice.
If you can guess what these are you're doing well.
 'Bum' shot of a white splurge
Mostly hidden rown blob
You should get this one
Out of focus ale brown blob
One or the other with camera shake
Don't know what went wrong, just couldn't get subject, brain and camera to act as a cohesive unit today despite the excellent light.
Couldn't get anywhere near the Grasshopper Warbler despite it reeling seemingly inches from us. Whilst chatting to long lost friend PL, good to see him back in circulation, the gulls went up right high and we picked up a brownish one even higher than the others gliding steady north rather than circling round...was it a gull or something broader winged - too far away for anything like a guess.
Spent part of the afternoon deleting Woodpigeons, Blackbirds and Cats from the stealth-cam, sadly no Foxes, Pumas, Hedgehogs or Caribou wandered through the garden at Base Camp this week.
Our evening visit to the nature reserve gave us our first Small White of the season.
Where to next? More of the same but with better pics hopefully.
In the meantime let us know who effectively avoided the lens in your outback.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Jumping through hoops

The Safari has had the kids and their little ones to stay so we've not done as much wildlifing as we might have done.
Yesterday we had a a cold walk round the nature reserve wit them where we had Whitethroat (138 MMLNR #80) and Grasshopper Warbler (139, MMLNR #81) for our year list. Only to be expected at this time of year bit we still missed Wheatear, is this going to be a bad year dip for the site?
After tea we set off with LCV to a farmland area in wich a mown garden was playing host to a Hoopoe, it's a while since we've seen a British one and being so close not to be sniffed at.
It was a lovely evening, Curlews bubbled in the fields, Brown Hares hopped about the fields and a Kestrel hovered over the long grass in the field nest to the garden eventually capturing a vole. It was just about sunset by now so our shots were a tad 'artistic'.
We had a day on the beach with the little ones and found them Sand Gobies and Brown Shrimps to put them. With LCV we watched out for Harbour Porpoises on the very calm sea to no avail but we did find a Grey Seal in the end and watched a flock of about 10 Sandwich Terns diving for fish.
After they'd left for home we went back out to Hoopoe-Land but missed it this time by a matter of minutes. Nice to see more Swallows about than yesterdcay though.
Where to next? Maybe a very early visit to the nature reserve but will it be third time lucky?
In the meantime let us know who's gracing the mown lawns in your outback.